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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Coolatully
Finborough Theatre Autumn 2014

Fiona Doyle's first full-length play is about Kilian Dempsey, twenty-seven year old resident of the fictional Irish town of Coolatully, stuck in such a dead-end existence that he is already aware that the high point of his entire life will be the time he scored the winning point for the local hurling team as a teenager. 

Kilian is tempted to emigrate to Australia, which offers the promise of jobs, beaches and better weather. His girlfriend has already got a job lined up in Sydney, half of the old hurling team have already left Ireland, his best mate encourages him to go, and an old family friend offers to finance the escape. 

What is keeping Kilian from going? It might be the memory of his recently-dead brother, whose grave he visits daily. It might be a reluctance to abandon his mother. Or it might be the stasis and inertia that are part of the Irish character. 

And then Kilian does something really foolish that tarnishes all his options, so that no decision he makes can lead to a happy ending. 

Coolatully is thus about the Irish dilemma that has been the recurring theme of Brian Friel, James Joyce and others before them, that the head says the only chance for a future lies in leaving while the heart knows you'll never really escape who you are. 

Doyle's play depends entirely on the evocation of time and place, and this is where the Finborough's premiere production lets it down. 

Despite the admirable efforts of the cast – Kerr Logan (Kilian), Yolanda Kettle (girlfriend), Charlie de Bromhead (mate), Eric Richard (benefactor) – and of director David Mercatali, we never really sense the environment and the pressures it imposes on the characters, the claustrophobia of the village or the Irish sense of impending and inevitable doom.

In short, even with the names and the accents and the local references, the Irishness is missing, or too weak to give this specific story the archetypal quality and cultural resonances it wants.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Coolatully - Finborough Theatre 2014

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